BLACKFOOT — The Snake River Middle School has taken all teaching and learning online through the rest of the year, following an increase in COVID-19 cases among staff members.
The move to a fully remote learning model runs from Dec. 14 through Dec. 22, principal Dean Bonney told parents in a letter last week. Students will return to school on Jan. 4, after Christmas break.
The move online applies only to the rural East Idaho district’s roughly 280 middle school students, though all Snake River students will shift to a fully online model Dec. 21 and 22.
Snake River Superintendent Mark Kress said next week’s shorter, district-wide shift stemmed from an effort to put “teachers’ efforts in Google Classroom to work.”
“Normally, the 22nd would have been used for Christmas parties at least for part of the day,” Kress told EdNews. “One full, face-to-face school day on Monday, with the risk of staff and students taking the virus home for holiday, just isn’t worth it.”
The middle school’s longer shift to remote learning stemmed from four new COVID-related staff absences, Kress said. Two staffers were already recovering from the illness, he added. A total of six potential cases put the school past the district’s “green” risk designation for spreading the virus.
Bonney assured parents that middle school teachers would still be “available” through the remote learning phase. He encouraged parents to “reach out to them via email for questions or concerns.”
A fifth and sixth grade teacher will also be available for face-to-face instruction for middle schoolers who need it, Bonney said, adding that the change to remote learning is an effort to balance safety with the need for continued learning.
“As a school, we realize that these are difficult times, and it is our desire that student learning continues, while at the same time (keeping) staff and students healthy and safe,” Bonney wrote to parents.
Parents can email Bonney at [email protected] to “discuss a possible alternative plan” for students struggling with remote learning.
Schools across Idaho continue to grapple with COVID-19. Some of the state’s largest districts, including Boise, Caldwell and Nampa, moved to online learning after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Case numbers dipped statewide last week after a post-holiday surge.
Click here for a regularly updated map of school operation plans and coronavirus risk levels by county.